Melissa Auf der Maur, The Rock Goddess in Our Midst, Appearing at Club Helsinki
This Saturday, March 12, Hudson’s own Melissa Auf der Maur (aka MAdM) performs at Club Helsinki Hudson in a rare, experimental show—Hunt for the Heart—a mix of her own repertoire and tributes to those who have influenced her. Born and raised in Montreal, where she got an education in the fine arts (Music and Photography), then for five years was a member of, and songwriter and bass player for the international rock band Hole. Among the highlights of her tenure there, the 1998 Billboard and Grammy-nominated album Celebrity Skin. In 2000, she joined the Smashing Pumpkins for their farewell world tour. In 2004, Auf der Maur, her first solo album, was released by Capitol Records/ EMI worldwide. It featured guest appearances by members of Queens of the Stone Age, NIN and A Perfect Circle. She has toured and collaborated with bands and members of QOTSA, Marilyn Manson, The Cure, Indochine, NIN, Muse, Ric Ocasek, and has exhibited her photography in New York, Montreal and Tokyo. Her most recent album OOOM [Out of Our Minds] has been nominated for an Independent Music Award in the Alternative/Hard Rock category. Recently, she took a break from rehearsing to talk to Rural Intelligence.
RI Congratulations on your nomination. You have Rural Intelligence’s heartfelt endorsement. If these awards are “independent,” does that mean we can vote for you?
MAdM: Yes, the public can vote. There are two categories, “celebrity” judges and the public.
RI: Before we vote, perhaps we should see your video of Meet Me On the Dark Side (below). That alone would be enough to cement your reputation as the hippest person in town.
MAdM: HA! Have you met the local welder or the bio-diesel mechanic? They are cooler than most people I’ve met anywhere!
RI: Your late father, Nick Auf der Maur, a newspaper columnist in Montreal, was an anarchist, wasn’t he? Would it be flip to suggest that his politics alone made him the ideal parent for a future rock musician?
MAdM: My father was a radical, but not an anarchist. He began as a journalist and was driven to politics to represent the “people”—the underdog, the under-represented, the unrecognized. I’d accompany him on his campaign trail, and I have a vivid memory of asking why he decided to get into politics. He said, “Someone has to get in there and check up on them—I don’t trust the guys in there.” He was a fantastic father for a artist-and-dreamer child. He bought me my first second-hand bass and encouraged me to join Hole when I was invited to audition, even though at the time I was not sure it was right. He was an adventurous man. Not to mention my mother Linda Gaboriau. She was the one who really turned me on to rock music. She was the first female disc jockey on Montreal rock radio and raised me with a great record collection and a passion for her generation’s rock musicians and counterculture heroes. Both my parents were freelancers from the beginning and raised me to believe you can work for yourself while following your passions and the things you believe in—massive influences on me and the life directions I’ve taken.
RI: I read that you met Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins after one of their concerts. You had asked to see him so you could apologize for your roommate, who had thrown a beer bottle at the band while they were performing. Then later, you wrote to him at a P.O. Box that was in the fine print on the back of a Smashing Pumpkins album asking, “Remember me? Can my band open for Smashing Pumpkins when you come to Montreal?” And he wrote back saying, yes!? Formal apology with a follow-up note? Sounds to me, young lady, like those finishing-school manners of yours got you where you are today. Would you agree?
MAdM: ABSOLUTELY! My boho art school got me far without even training me in good manners. It was all based on the fact that I fell head-over-heels for the music I heard coming off that stage from a passionate, unknown band from Chicago. They deserved an apology, and my vow to follow their music forever. I remained a devoted fan and later got the chance to open for them, which led to my invitation to join Hole, and later still to join Smashing Pumpkins. Full circle by following my love for their music.
RI: You say you were hesitant about joining Courtney Love’s band Hole. Then you ended up staying five years. Was that because once you’d relented you were contractually obliged to stick it out or did it turn out to be a better fit than you had anticipated?
MAdM: I joined reluctantly because I was busy in Montreal with my own band and with finishing my Photography BFA. I had plans for my future. Hole was a curveball I was not expecting. That’s why I initially said no, then reconsidered once the brainy-and-persuasive Courtney Love called me after school one day, asking why I did not want to join her band? She convinced me that I should give it a shot and fly out to Seattle the next day. It was actually upon landing at the Seattle airport and being greeted by Courtney and drummer Patty Schemel that I got a flash of destiny in my eyes. These ladies were part of something bigger than a band. A BFA? I was so lame—a life-changing lesson. So I joined. They did, however, ask me for a long-term contract, which I agreed to, and I stayed true to my word. I made a commitment to see it through, and I did.
RI: What drew you to Hudson?
MAdM: The landscape, the great river, the history, the architecture, the farming, the complex cultural community that’s converging here. It’s a microcosm of America and, as a Canadian who’s made the USA a second home for over a decade, Hudson is the first place that has made me fall head-over-heels in love with this country.
RI: What are your favorite things about it?
MAdM: Henry Hudson! Dames of Diamond Streets! The Dutch who brought them here! The brave Whaling Captains and the taken Whales, who put this place on the map! The painters who were the first to recognize these magic skies! Then, of course, although there is no visible proof or acknowledgment of them, the Natives who were here to receive the Dutch. I hear our side of the river was the peaceful tribe and the Catskills mountains were home to the warrior tribe. All of them helped make this one of the most unique places I could hope to live.
RI: In addition to your house here, you, your husband (the filmmaker Tony Stone), and his parents bought The Basilica, the huge 19th-century industrial building-turned-sometime-arts-center near the river and the railway station. What are your plans for it?
MAdM: We are so inspired by its potential that we are embarking full-on into our debut summer season, starting with some very basic renovations that will allow Basilica Hudson to become one of the largest public venues in the area. Between the main hall and the various side buildings and spaces, the Basilica will be able to hold over 1000 people as a center for Arts and Culture, showcasing local and international talent and hosting events. We are launching our first season on April 28th with a reading by the Hudson-based writer Rudy Wurlitzer with special guest Will Oldham. Then on April 30th, with Swoon Kitchen Bar, we will host the Hudson Valley’s First Annual Ramp Festival. Still in the planning stages are other Art and Music events for later in the season. We are also researching the potential for it to eventually become an entirely “Green” facility for film, photo, and music production. It’s a work in progress. Stay tuned!